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Saints Francis and Mark
Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna
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Two saints stand on a fantastically cusped stone plinth in front of a rose hedge. They are Francis and Mark, identified by their attributes – the symbols with which they are traditionally associated – and by the inscriptions in the front of the plinth. Mark, one of the four authors of the Gospels, holds a copy of his Gospel, while Francis is dressed in a brown habit and holds a crucifix.

They were once the right wing of a triptych (an altarpiece in three parts) painted in Venice in the 1440s by Antonio Vivarini and his brother-in-law and partner Giovanni d'Alemagna.

The altarpiece originally stood in the church of Saint Moisé in Venice, and the saints on it would have been chosen by its patrons. Saint Mark was the patron saint of Venice; Saint Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order, was hugely popular in the fifteenth century.

Key facts
Artist Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna
Artist dates probably active 1440; died 1476/84; died 1449/50
Full title Saints Francis and Mark
Series Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made about 1440-6
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 135.3 x 45.1 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1889
Inventory number NG1284
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two pairs of saints were originally the side panels for an altarpiece painted by the Vivarinis, a Venetian family of artists working in the second half of the fifteenth century. The central panel, showing the Virgin and Child enthroned, is now in the Museo di San Tommaso Becket Martire in Padua, although the altarpiece was made for the church of San Moisè in Venice.

The saints are identified by inscriptions and by their attributes – symbolic objects associated with them. They are Saints Peter, Jerome, Francis and Mark. They stand on a pedestal, a detail common in sculpture but in Venetian painting used only by the Vivarinis.

Although the altar was a triptych (a painting in three parts) with panels set in a gilded frame, the ornately shaped stone pedestal would have run along all three panels, and the balustrade behind them connected with the Virgin’s throne – the figures seem to exist in the same space.

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